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As a denomination, there are a couple surefire ways to get your name in the headlines. You can bow to popular wisdom on a major doctrinal issue, as the Episcopal Church did in 2003 by electing an openly homosexual man as bishop. Or you can weigh in against practices near and dear to some of your fellow Christians, as the Southern Baptist Convention did two years ago.

If you want to make sure no one covers your denominational meeting, here's what you do: Revise your statement of faith before certain issues become disputed in your churches. And yet here I am writing about the Evangelical Free Church of America's newly revised statement of faith. Why? Because the time to fix your doctrine is when it isn't broke.

By and large, the EFCA has been insulated from the evangelical world's recent debates over open theism, the Atonement, justification, and inerrancy. That's not to say the EFCA has avoided the debates. Faculty at the EFCA seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), have actively engaged each of these controversial topics. But the newer interpretations have not gained traction among the denomination's 1,300 churches. Still, it's clear EFCA leaders had these debates in mind when they adopted a new statement of faith on June 26.

The first article says God has "limitless knowledge and sovereign power." Thus, the EFCA takes a stand against open theism, which claims that God granted humans complete free will, so he can't know the future precisely. This first article was shifted ahead of an article on the Bible, which led off the last statement of faith, adopted in 1950, when the EFCA was formed by merger. The move should not be interpreted as de-emphasizing inerrancy. Indeed, the 2008 revision strengthens the EFCA's ...

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July 2008

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